Agriculture Education center site work done, CHS preparations coming soon

Students are now out of the classroom, and teachers are wrapping up their work for the year during in-service days before as summer break gets underway. While classrooms are empty during this summer, transformations are being planned at campuses around Polk County.

Those include security improvements to ensure that visitors don’t have direct access within a school before having to check in at the front office, as well as a lot of construction projects starting for the latest round of Education-only Special Purpose, Local Option Sales Tax funds being collected through 2026.

Among those projects technically underway now is the new Animal Science and Agriculture Education facility at Rockmart High School. Site work for drainage, plumbing and more is already started for the building, and major construction is expected for the summer with the hopes of having students being able to start work within following the holiday break.

Rockmart High’s new facility will include an area to hold banquets and meetings, a kitchen, classrooms, an animal staging area, an arena for showing off livestock and more.

“That is a project that we have well underway,” Superintendent Laurie Atkins said. “Making sure that it is done right and the site is prepared correctly, it will probably completed by middle of first semester.”

Over at Cedartown High School on the other hand, the start of their project will be slightly more complicated. Students and faculty won’t be around for the first step in that project, which will have to move some utilities around through the coming weeks.

Preparations have already been made to relocate summer events for high school students and staff to other locations, including summer school that is being held at Cedartown Middle.

Once site preparation work on the backside of the high school is completed – Atkins said some changes were made to the initial design concept to accommodate for parking and marching band practice areas – they’ll then start the next phase of construction, the actual building.

“We are looking at mid-August through mid-September to begin bidding out the different part of the building and construction will begin at the end of September,” Atkins said.

The design change takes into account concerns addressed previously that losing parking in front of the football stadium.

“We just felt like we didn’t want to disturb anymore than we had to,” she said. “So the perfect solution was to turn the building and place it along the backside of the school, where the back entrance to the gym is located.”

She said the design still includes the auditorium and stage, dressing rooms and restrooms, a workshop area as well as a “nice band room” on the bottom floor. Additional work will follow on other spaces and relocations within Cedartown High, and is expected to be completed in phases due to the nature of what will be required. That includes raising floors from previous classrooms, and still having a place to put students while construction is underway.

“We have to make sure we get this finished so we can relocate these students, then we can get to this (future work,)” Atkins said.

These reconfigurations haven’t changed estimated costs of the work for the Cedartown High School Fine Arts projects, but that some of the items have been enhanced in the concept stage to ensure that appropriate seating is available in the auditorium, for instance.

“The original said 250 seats, but we have more than that in several of our classes right now, by more than 100 in several of our high school grades,” Atkins said. “That was a change that took some adjustment, as well as that all of the rooms we’re adding has a purpose. We don’t want any wasted space, and we’re getting the best bang for our buck.”

Assistant Superintendent Greg Teems added that work is also taking into consideration how the additions will tie into the building, into security, and much more.

Until that work is completed, Cedartown drama students will still be using the Cedartown Performing Arts Center for their productions, just like Rockmart High students use the Rockmart Arts Theater when they stage plays and musicals.

Previously, Board of Education member Chris Culver had sought help for the Rockmart High program to supplement the cost of renting out the theater, and eventually it’ll be considered for an additional SPLOST in the long term future.

“What we have decided to do is provide for both,” Atkins said. “We’re going to make sure we have the funds for both Cedartown and Rockmart to pay for use of the facilities until we can get a facility built.”

Other SPLOST projects getting underway this summer include the resurfacing and repair of both Rockmart and Cedartown tracks, located within the football stadiums. Atkins said they “were in need of some repair, and we’re making sure that it gets done this summer.”

“This has been a long time coming,” she said. “We want to make sure our kids are competitive in all areas, and it gives them an opportunity to host events when they have a track that is well-maintained and up to date.”

New policies will be forthcoming once the repairs are done about how students will be allowed to use the track and football fields while not in competition to prevent future damage and additional repair costs in the near and long term.

Atkins said schools are also undertaking safety measures during the summer as well above what was already underway, but did not wish to elaborate to ensure those specific means are kept out of dangerous hands.

“We’re putting a lot of safety precautions into place, and we’ve already established some of these safety measures,” she said.

Modifications will be made to some of the front offices around the school district to accommodate those changes.

Ensuring that previous problems with covering costs of construction ahead of time while waiting for SPLOST funds to come in won’t be a problem this time around, Atkins said. The Board of Education last year voted to approve a Tax Anticipation Note – one they paid off at the end of the school year – because of unexpected building costs. The E-SPLOST package approved last year is like those previous using bond sales to get upfront money to complete projects, and E-SPLOST proceeds to pay back the debt plus interest over a longer term.

Atkins said everyone comes to the table to discuss costs and ensure the district, the board and contractors are all on the same page.

“We do what we have told our public we’re doing with the SPLOST, and we want to make sure that we have the appropriate money there allotted for it,” Atkins said.

Teems added that “I’m personally glad that we didn’t say ‘let’s put and Ag building up over there,’ without talking to the Ag teacher first and asking him what his needs our.”

“We talked to him about what he wanted,” Teems said. “We talked to Tom McGarity about what he needed out of the band room…. We personally went to the track coaches and asked them what they needed.”

Atkins said “we want to make sure these are well thought out and well planned with input by those who are actually going to use the facility.”